Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Think Google Images are free? Think again!

Isn’t the Google Images site fantastic? It’s like a candy store. So many pictures; so little time. And what’s amazing is that they are there for the taking. Just download and drop into your article or website or blog post. Right? Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. And, boy, did I learn that the hard way.

One day I got a letter — the kind of thing I would throw out if I weren’t the compulsive type who opens every piece of mail, including junk. So, I opened it and put it in the pile to look at later. When I finally got around to looking at it, I almost had a heart attack.

The letter said: “It has come to our attention that you are using an image represented by G______ for online promotional purposes. We have searched our records and have not found a valid license for the use of image. Attached for your reference is a copy of the image in question and the usage found on your company’s website.”

There was more, lots more. But, basically, it went on to say I had better take that image off of my website immediately and send them a check for $_____ (a lot of money)!

I couldn’t believe it. I read it again, and again, and yet again. No doubt about it. I was (justifiably) accused of copyright infringement. Attached to the “Settlement Demand” was a list of all the excuses people use to get out of paying. Believe me, I had thought of all of them except for insisting that my website was designed by evil pixies who had stolen the image when I wasn’t looking. None of the excuses were acceptable, of course.

I wanted to cry; but, being a big girl who, according to the letter and my web adviser, should have known better, I spent hours removing every picture I had not personally created. Ignorance of the law, apparently, was not a valid reason for ignoring it.

I wrote the check and mailed it super express, which cost me another $17.50 to be sure it arrived by the deadline. Irony of ironies: while I was filling out the paperwork for overnight mail, a guy with a ponytail was looking over my shoulder. “What do you have to do with G_________?” he asked. "I owe them money,” I replied.

“I sell them photographs,” he said.

“Well, you’ll be happy to know they are protecting your copyright,” I mumbled, trying not to sound bitter.

“That’s good to know,” he said. Right.


Mrs. Wryly said...

Hi Bobbi,

That's scary! I really like the pixie excuse, however, and will file it in my brain for future use.

I'm sorry you learned the hard way. You should have given the FedEx guy a tug on that tail.